U.S. Department of Education official Brenda Dann-Mesier was in the east Wednesday visiting a class in Craven County that's setting a new standard in teaching science, technology, engineering, and math skills to middle school students.
This is the first year the S.T.E.M. Careers Investigation Lab is being taught in Havelock Middle School and S.T.E.M. teacher Marlena Bleu says she's already seen a huge difference in her students and their interest in learning such a tough curriculum. "I've seen a higher potential level with my students using the hands on method and the stem based learning opportunities that they've had here simply because children learn by doing."
Learning by doing; that's what sets this class apart from other lecture based courses being taught throughout the county. Retention levels of information learned in a course that's hands on is 90 percent compared to regular lecture based courses where retention levels are around 10 percent according to Chris Bailey, the Director of Career and Technical Education for Craven County Schools.
Educators and industry leaders alike are excited by the effects this S.T.E.M. course could have on the local job market in the future for companies like FRC East. Bailey tells WITN, "having a program at a middle school, that is getting middle schoolers excited about engineering is enabling us to grow our own engineers, so that ten years down the road FRC East has a stable supply of engineers that have been grown right here in craven county." U.S. Department of Education official Brenda Dann-Messier echoed his stance. "What you're doing is building a workforce in this community that wants to stay in this community, has roots in this community, and can fill the jobs that will become vacant when we have huge retirement numbers. So it's a fantastic program. It's a way to serve the workforce needs, employer needs, but you are also training students to be S.T.E.M. majors and that's phenomenal.
A hand's on course like this S.T.E.M. Lab doesn't come cheap. In fact this course costs ten times as much as regular lecture based courses. This class is funded by grants issued by The Golden Leaf Foundation and county education officials are continuously looking for grants that support S.T.E.M. education development.
The course is not only generating excitement from educators, students are equally excited about the opportunity to be in this class. 8th grader Jeanetta Godette says this class sparked her interest in flight. 8th grader Airianna Thompson tells us why she thinks this class is better than her regular lecture based classes. "It's different from the traditional classroom, it's not just reading or science or just math. It's a mix of it, so you kind of have to use every subject in everything that you do".
Dann-Messier credits a unique partnership within the community for the overall success this program has shown. "I've been so impressed in eastern North Carolina. You've got educators, business leaders, the philanthropic community, community members, all working together to support these programs and that's what you need. "It's a phenomenal example of how when community comes together, students benefit."
This course is open to all students in four counties: Craven, Lenoir, Jones, and Wayne.